‘A hymn, almost, to the speed of technical obsolescence’ – The Gigantic Robot by Tom Gauld

grcoverI was walking home from work yesterday evening and got caught in a downpour (which isn’t unusual when you work in Manchester) and so decided to duck into Travelling Man, which is a nifty little comics boutique almost equidistant between work and the bus stop. It was there I was introduced to Tom Gauld’s new book The Gigantic Robot.

Now. It may be that you’re not familiar with Tom Gauld. He’s one of those comics types. I picked up a book he did with his comics cohort Simone Lia (the author of the excellent Fluffy) a few years back called Both, which didn’t really do Gauld justice (thanks in the main to the bitty nature of collaboration, I suppose). The Gigantic Robot does, however, do Gauld justice. In spades.

What we have here is a large silver book, pitched sort of midway between an arch Edward Gorey-esque coffeetable book and one of those books printed on extra thick card that you give young children who are liable to put said card in their mouths and chew until soggy. Not that we recommend you giving Tom Gauld’s The Gigantic Robot to children who might chew it. Although you could give The Gigantic Robot to children to read. It’s affably universal in its scope.

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What you get for your money is 16 pictures and 13 lines of text. Not much you might say for £20. Especially when you factor in that you could read it in under five minutes if you chose to. In those 16 pages and 13 lines, though, you get an austere meditation on the cyclical nature of war, a humble treatise on the limitations of man, a hymn, almost, to the speed of technical obsolescence and a fine story about what happens to a machine created for war that never actually works in the way that it should.

You can read The Gigantic Man in under five minutes if you chose. I did, last night. But then I spent the evening haunted by the images Gauld has created and the words he has chosen to frame his story. I spoke with my daughter (who loves Fluffy to abstraction) and my son about it, both of whom were keen to read it or have it read to them. This lunchtime I took another walk over to Travelling Man (in the rain once more – some things about Manchester remain constant almost day in and day out) and bought a copy. For me it’s worth shelling out the dough on.

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If the illustrations in this review in any way pique your interest, I’d heartily recommend you take a walk over to Travelling Man (or your neighbourhood’s equivalent) and treat yourself.

Any Cop?: If you’ve ever read and enjoyed Ted Hughes’ Iron Man (or even Brad Bird’s hugely under-rated film ‘version’), I’d make a beeline for The Gigantic Robot.


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